Reuters ( -by Andrew M. Seaman

Monday, August 12, 2013

Children of women who had labor induced or sped up with drugs were more likely to go on to develop an autism spectrum disorder, in a new study.

The study’s lead researcher, however, said the findings don’t prove inducing or speeding up – also known as augmenting – labor causes autism, and they shouldn’t affect decisions to use the techniques.  “The benefits of induction or augmentation by (obstetricians and gynecologists) far outweigh the risks to maternal and fetal health,” Simon Gregory, from Duke Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, told Reuters Health.

About one in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Previous studies have found that early environmental exposures, such as pregnant women’s use of epilepsy drugs and folic acid, are tied to children’s risk of developing autism (see Reuters Health stories of April 23, 2013 here: and of February 12, 2013

For the new study, Gregory and his colleagues wanted to examine the relationship between medically starting or quickening labor and autism, which had been looked at in smaller studies with conflicting results.  Doctors typically use drugs to induce labor when a woman’s pregnancy lasts one or two weeks past her due date. For augmentation, doctors also use medicine to quicken or restart a woman’s contractions.

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